Monday, December 29, 2008

Signing in sentences

Maybe it's the post-holiday letdown (don't remind me New Year's is still to come -- I'm planning to stay low-key and ignore it), but I'm feeling too lethargic to accomplish a major post today, as I had in mind to do while Mikko is napping. (Yes, napping at 10 at night. Remind me to tell you about his sleep schedule sometime. Or, better yet, don't.)

signing babyInstead, I will just share with you his newest accomplishment in the world of communication: signing in two-word sentences.

I am thrilled. He signed MORE EAT and MORE NUMMIES the other day, at 18 months old. MORE is his code for "I want" -- it doesn't always (or usually) correspond to what we English speakers would mean by "more." In the first instance, he wanted a snack he saw available, and in the second, he wanted the usual. We made up our own sign for breastfeeding, preferring it over the official one and also preferring to leave MILK to mean cow's milk, if needed in the future.

(FYI: Here's a previous post about Mikko and signing, the evolution of NUMMIES, and various Baby Sign resources.)

Mikko has been signing back to us since about 12 months, but this was the first time he'd strung a couple signs together. It sounds like he's right on target in baby-signing development (though no YouTube superstar -- not that I'm concerned!).

Here's a non-signing children's language development chart, though I wouldn't worry too much if your particular kid is behind or ahead of the average. At 18 months, according to the chart, Mikko should have a vocabulary of 5-20 words. He doesn't have near that many -- unless you count signs. In that case, he has about 30.

And he uses them so excitedly. Everywhere we go, he spots the FANs and points out LIGHTs. He signs BEAR and growls for any stuffed animal, and he woofs and signs CAT when he sees a dog or cat. What can I say? He's a little confused about the differences there. He also moos and signs COW for anything vaguely livestock-esque, which funny enough, includes real bears.

I'm just so glad to have a window into his busy mind, and glad that he feels happy telling me what he sees. He will keep signing something over and over until I echo it back vocally, so he craves that interaction, that acknowledgment -- the essence of communication.

You can start signing with your children whether they're 6 months old or 6 years old. Again, I'll refer you to this post, at the end of which I posted several resources for signing with hearing children.

I've gone ahead and added another great resource: I've had a chance to explore Dr. Bill Vicars' site and realized that he has an entire online ASL university that you can complete for free! It's really an incredible gift that he's offering, and the material is exactly what you'd cover in a college ASL course. I've started the lessons for my own education. I really hope to learn more about American Sign Language grammar rather than just stringing a few nouns and verbs into my conversation -- although, if it's with a hearing child, that's good, too! But it's really fascinating to learn more about Deaf culture and to become more conversant in the language as a whole, for whenever I next have the opportunity to communicate with a deaf person. (I think I've embarrassed myself in the past...) And maybe Mikko will want to learn ASL as another language some day!

But really -- I just think signing is fun!

Well, this post ended up being more research than I'd thought it would be. The good news is Mikko slept through it all! You can't see me, but I'm waving goodbye for now. See you later!

Photo of adorable, intensely signing baby courtesy of Ben Earwicker of Garrison Photography on stock.xchng

Friday, December 26, 2008

Join the Facebook nurse-in on Dec. 27

If you're a breastfeeding advocate and use Facebook, consider joining the M.I.L.C. (Mothers International Lactation Campaign) nurse-in, sponsored by the group Hey, Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene!

holy familyTomorrow, Dec. 27, attendees will change their profile picture to a breastfeeding image -- personal photo; image of a sculpture; reproduction of a famous painting, as the Holy Family illustration here, by Francisco de Zurbarah, in honor of the Christmas season -- and change their status to "Hey, Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene."

Facebook has a history of pulling down "offensive" breastfeeding pictures, even though their official stance is that only images of fully exposed breasts are subject to removal, as per the overall guidelines of the site, including the children who visit. That's right -- Facebook's censoring breastfeeding for the children.

But if you go to the group's page, you'll see Kelli Roman's photo that was originally removed as the profile picture there. There is a tiny pie-shaped wedge of white skin visible under the baby's cheek. There's no areola, no nipple, and barely any breast tissue. Apparently someone found that offensive enough at one point to flag it as unacceptable, and Facebook agreed then -- though it hasn't pulled that one in particular since.

From the M.I.L.C. page:

Facebook continues to classify breastfeeding photos as obscene content. They continue to arbitrarily remove these photos from member albums and profiles, accompanied by warnings of account termination. This is highly discriminatory and an affront to nursing mothers everywhere. In protest of this, Mothers International Lactation Campaign (M.I.L.C.) has planned a virtual day of protest.

Not only is human lactation responsible for the very survival of our species, it is in no way a sexually explicit, lewd or despicable act. It is also protected by law in most countries....

From the Palo Alto Daily Newspaper, by Will Oremus (quoted on the same page; original source here):

“Where I live, I can breast-feed in public or private, and there are laws that say it’s not obscene or lewd or indecent,” said Farley, 23. “If I can do it in public, why can’t I do it on Facebook?”

Censoring such images, she said, reinforces stigmas that discourage mothers from a healthy, natural practice.

Now I just have to go pick out what photo I want for my profile today.

I have so many to choose from!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas pondering

Another holiday, another time to hide from family.

I let the rest go out on a walk while I'm using the opportunity for a little post.

Oh, sad -- they're back. I guess it was too cold for much of a walk.

Red Stars and GreeneryWell, I'll keep it short, then. First of all, merry Christmas to you and yours. I hope your day is filled with family, friends, and cheer.

I've been prompted to indulge in a little pre-New Year's reflection, the kind of pie-in-the-sky wishfulness that makes you resolve to be an entirely other person starting January 1. I keep seeing a disconnect between the parenting I philosophize about and the parenting I practice. I can be doing both at once: holding an ideal in my head while I intentionally do something else.

Maybe that's just everyone. Maybe it's a start to have the ideal. But I'm hoping to get a little closer this year to letting go of some of the things that make me feel sad, regretful, detached -- and move closer to the parent I'd want, the parent I want to be.

Oh, and of course, there are all the other things. I'm going to wash all the dirty dishes every day, even pots. I'm going to revise my novel in a month. I'll take my vitamins like clockwork. I won't let a single junk food pass my lips. And somewhere in all that, I'll also fit in working in our business and taking care of a one-going-on-two-year-old.

Well, a girl can dream. That's what Christmas is for, smoothing over all the tensions and disappointments, imagining the distant past of a wailing child and a hurried birth and an uncomfortable bed, but converting it in our heads into a show with starglow, beatific smiles, and gossamer strands of hay. Today we see the beauty in the mundane, the potential in something as inconsequential as a baby born of a displaced person, a nobody born of a nobody.

Here's to hope. Here's to faith. Here's to becoming more than we seem.

Photo courtesy of Hilde Vanstraelen on stock.xchng

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hiding a nursing toddler

nurslingI was reminded of those breastfeeding covers that are all the rage among the newborn-toting set, when an email about milk supply in my Gmail trigged a Google ad along the side for "secret nursing."

I've written before about my bad experience with any sort of "discreet" blanketing and my reluctance to make a big deal out of covering up what should be considered a normal act of feeding an infant.

But I reexamined the issue in light of the fact that I am now nursing a toddler. A full-blown, walking, talking (sorta kinda) toddler. I expect more and more people will find what I'm doing strange, and the ad made me picture trying to be discreet with my 18-month-old.

Imagine it in your head for a minute. It's a funny picture, isn't it? Long, gangly legs kicking around outside the edges of a blanket, a writhing figure underneath. Mikko refuses to let me put blankets on his legs. I'm supposing if I tried to put one over his head, there would be two possible reactions: If he's in a good mood, he would think it was a fun game of peekaboo (with my breast being the boo!); if he's in a bad mood, say, if he were hungry, wouldn't be pretty. Either way, it wouldn't be useful.

That made me think that the trend for breastfeeding covers assumes that only newborns are going to nurse. Or, perhaps, that only newborns are going to nurse out in public. I have heard that many mothers of toddlers start limiting nummies to home, a practice I've considered but not implemented as yet. I can't take turning down Mikko's legitimate requests for food and comfort just because we're out and about, and just because someone might be offended. I know I always appreciate seeing a breastfeeding toddler, because it means I'm not alone!

I know I have become less discreet as Mikko's grown -- but I also care even less. I used to be able to position him just so and settle in for a long feed, but I've had to change my process because his nursing style has changed so much. He now flits from side to side, having a couple quick gulps back and forth, and then he's off to something else that interests him, before returning a few minutes later for another snack. If I had to arrange a blanket or special shawl every time that happened, I'd scream. As it is, I can barely take refastening my nursing bra in between sessions, and I've adopted the easier habit of just wrenching down my entire neckline rather than trying to deal with layers of shirts. Only if I'm in the presence of someone new or uneasy do I take the time to be more covered. But, hey, I figure Mikko has a big enough head to cover most of it anyway.

Keep in mind that Mikko still nurses frequently and all day and night like a newborn, unlike other toddlers I've heard tell of who nurse, for example, upon waking and before bed. I expect it's because of his large size but his continuing aversion to going whole hog with solid foods.

Oh, and his latest adorableness that might make others squirm: He has taken to pointing out "noses" everywhere we go. He finds his own nose; he finds his dad's; he finds mine; he finds his bear's; he finds the kitty's (and doesn't she love that!). Well, every time he feeds now, he touches a nipple and says "nose" to me, until I echo it back to him and, satisfied, he can start to eat. I thought about giving it the proper name, but then I thought about him saying it over and over while other people are around, and I chickened out. I'm settling on trying to modify it to "nummy nose." Wussy, I know. Hopefully he'll learn the correct term before he uses that one on any future amour.

What are other people's experiences and comfort levels? What do you think of nursing covers in general, and for toddlers in particular? Should I make more of an effort to hide my skin, or say "deal with it" to any glares (which, I might add, I have never yet received)? Is there any age at which it's too awkward to nurse a child in public, and at what age could they understand that? I know it's not 18 months for my guy -- 18 years, perhaps?

And if any of you are breastfeeding toddlers indiscreetly in public, please bring your sweet self near me so we can match.

Here are posts with comments that offer some other voices on the issue from blogs I read and blogs they linked to on nursing toddlers. Feel free to add any other links in the comments here.

Beautiful nursling photo courtesy of Marek Bernat on stock.xchng

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Snow day!

winter tree

In other news, the whole reason I'm able to catch up with some posts is that we're snowed in. Yes, in Seattle!

Yesterday was spent first in a fever of expectation for snow and then a sinking feeling that maybe we'd all been played for fools. For instance, Seattle schools were closed for a snow day without any snow falling, and closer to home, I missed my ballet class because I was so certain the roads would be impassable by then that we ended up planning our last-minute panic errands in conflict with the start time.

Then we were up late into the night, finishing up personal packages (Christmas gifts as opposed to business ones for our online sales), and when we went to bed, I peeked out the blinds -- and what do you know, there it was, fluffy and flurrying in the streetlights.

We're missing our first of three holiday parties tonight. Who knows if the other two will be canceled or postponed as well. Tomorrow we have to get out to deliver our packages for our business. We're kind of like the postal workers in that way, only with a much easier route! We used to run our own cat-sitting business, caring for cats whose owners were away and who needed food, water, attention, and little necessities like insulin shots, and it's days like this that I appreciate we no longer have any pressing need to venture out into the icy mess. We took a walk down our street, and it's solid ice. Add in Seattle hills to the mix and a lack of snow plows an sanding trucks, and you can see how staying home is generally the best option when possible.

Anyway, as I was sitting around yesterday, feeling stupid for expecting a big snow storm in Seattle, I kept hitting refresh on to see, first, if the current forecast told me it was snowing (in lieu of standing up and looking outside) and, two, if the hour-by-hour forecast predicted it would be snowing soon. I kept watching the hour-by-hour snow prediction consistently staying an hour or two ahead of the current cloudiness, and I wondered if snow would just keep running away from us before we could catch up.

While I was wondering at the inaccuracy of the forecast, I Googled for anyone who had studied the issue and found this amusing page:

How good are the weather forecasts?

An enterprising computer whiz wrote a program to check the accuracy of BBC 5-day predictions versus what they stated actually happened on each day in question. Graciously allowing for items like "partly sunny" and "partly cloudy" to be close enough to the same thing, the researcher found that the weather predictors were right a little over half the time for one day out.

That made me laugh, and explained why there was no snow falling even as everyone was scurrying around preparing for it. (Seriously, when we were trying to get supplies for our party that was canceled, we found Safeway was out of Baco Bits, cream cheese and hot dog buns -- you know, the staples.) It doesn't explain why the Seattle public school system believed the warnings enough to cancel all the schools despite nary a flake in the sky, but it's more comforting to think that meteorology's a science rather than a confidence trick.

Photo courtesy of Mark Van Werven on stock.xchng because it's too cold to go out and take some myself

Why don't parents trust research?

lab work
A UK Guardian article titled "Family under the microscope" asks this question:

Why isn't there more research into parenting regimes for infants?

The article references (I assume) this 2006 study "Infant Crying and Sleeping in London, Copenhagen and When Parents Adopt a 'Proximal' Form of Care," by Ian St James-Roberts and a bunch of other researchers (that's the scientific way to say "et al").

The study followed three groups of parents: a group that practiced distant child caring (less holding and breastfeeding, strict scheduling -- also known as the mainstream Western method), a group that practiced so-called "proximal" care (lots of holding and breastfeeding, quick response times -- so, attachment parenting), and a group in the middle. The distant group experienced more infant crying, and the proximal group experienced more night waking, although the article notes that the researchers had to admit that if a baby is put to sleep in a crib in another room, many night wakings might go unremarked by a parent, as opposed to having that baby snuggled up next to you and rooting to breastfeed. The mid-line group seemed to have the best of both worlds: less crying and less night waking. Of course, that's "best" in Western terms, because other research suggests that night waking has a beneficial and protective effect for infants. (Motherland has a wonderful blog post on just this subject.)

To get back to the Guardian article -- I had a dual-sided reaction to it. On the one hand, I completely agree that we need more research in how parental methods affect infants in terms of sleep, quality of life, connection to parents, etc., and, in the long view, emotional and physical health as older children and on into adulthood. On the other hand, the sentence "It is pathetic that this is the only serious study of the question" made me think of all the serious studies I've read about the benefits of attachment parenting of infants, and of sleeping arrangements in particular (see James McKenna for one assiduous researcher into cosleeping), even some longitudinal ones (such as one study of military families that showed no adverse psychological effects later in childhood, McKenna's summary of long-term effects of cosleeping, or the 18-year study by Okami & Co.). For even more research on sleep and parenting, take a look at this Mothering article and this KellyMom page for more links and references to studies than I can go into in one little post.

The research is being done. So, for me, the more salient issue is: Why don't more people believe the research?

Now, I'm a rebel, clearly, or I wouldn't be parenting the kooky way I do. But I'm logical, too. One reason I chose this non-mainstream way of parenting is because I read the research and looked into the effects of different parenting styles on baby wellbeing. I looked at books that studied how babies were designed to be treated. And I took all that seriously, and responded in kind. You'd think I'd be one to question research the way I've questioned mainstream parenting, the medical establishment, my experience growing up, and so on, and the fact is that I do look at any research study with a critical eye. But it's strange to me that mainstream parents, who apparently are blindly accepting what the culture tells them is right and normal for baby rearing, wouldn't blindly accept research as well. So why aren't they? Why is the culture so at odds with the science, when this culture worships science?

Well, it's a dilemma. Eventually people were convinced the earth revolved around the sun -- maybe eventually all Western parents will be convinced babies like to be held, through science if not through commonsense and a tug on the heartstrings.

Photo of Dyon Scheyen (who's presumably not actually researching parenting in the photo) is courtesy of Jean Scheijen on stock.xchng.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Being a retailer at Christmas

shoppersI'm writing this post in lieu of smacking some of my customers upside the head, which is, at any rate, hard to do long distance. Please indulge me in a little rant to blow off some steam, since I try to be nothing but courteous and professional in my customer-service emails.

Sam and I sell DVDs online, on venues like eBay and Amazon Marketplace. It never fails to amaze me that we get customers who berate us for deceptive business practices if they find out that they could get the item cheaper elsewhere, or that we, in fact, did.

Yes, that's right, certain astute customers have found out that retailers sell items at a profit. It was a closely guarded secret, handed down through the ages, but now it's out. Our business model is ruined. Now we will have to pass along items at the same cost we buy them for, because that's only fair. (NB to these customers: This is me being sarcastic.)

Imagine you walk into The Gap. There are jeans there for $60, let's say. Does anyone really think The Gap bought those jeans for $60? They probably cost them pennies. Imagine you walk into any grocery store. I guarantee that every single item on those shelves the grocery store paid less than half what they're charging you at the regular price. That's how retail works! That's how businesses pay their expenses and, afterward, turn a profit. I should think this is obvious, but apparently not to the yahoos who buy from me.

Let's take a further example. Let's say that the same manufacturer in China makes the same pair of jeans for several retailers, switching out thread colors and tags, and selling them for $5 a pair. Wal-Mart buys a zillion and sells them for $10 each. The Gap charges $60. Le Chic Boutique buys 300, claims they're limited edition, and charges $300 a pair. Which of these business models is deceptive? The answer: None of them. Items are worth what a customer is willing to pay for them. People buy from Le Chic Boutique (I made this store up, if you can't tell, since I don't shop at this price point ) for the cachet of owning jeans with a certain tag and stitching color. People buy from The Gap for the convenience. People buy from Wal-Mart because they're cheap (no offense -- present company included).

To bring this back around to me (which I live to do), customers buy from us because they want low price and convenience. We handle shopping around for deals both in brick-and-mortar stores and online, obtaining (often exclusive) coupons, and buying in bulk to maximize savings on shipping and, sometimes, price. We pay for seller's fees, packing materials, sales tax, and gas to the post office. We spend hours each day wrapping packages, placing orders online, answering customer-service emails, driving to stores, and standing in line at the post office's APC. And we get very little sleep in December. We make not very much by doing all this. I won't give an exact number, because you'll tell me to get a real job. But we do it because we like working from home, sharing our lives, and raising our son together.

So, to the bargain hunters out there, more power to you. If you want to buy 1,000 jeans direct from China so that you can get the $5 price, and then deal with the hassle of selling off the other 999 pairs you don't want, that's your prerogative. But there's no point in slamming a retailer for selling it to you for more than that, since they're doing all the work.

Ok, end of rant.

Here's my holiday advice for everyone: Be patient with customer-service reps and cashiers. Smile at postal workers. Remember that Christmas spirit is not so limited that it must be reserved only for your loved ones. Everyone could use a little.

Bah! H--I mean, merry Christmas.

Photo of annoying customers (ha ha) courtesy of pipp on stock.xchng

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Pediatricians less likely to promote breastfeeding

the doctor is inOk, I'm sad now.

I saw a link to the new survey of pediatricians on their breastfeeding attitudes in 2004 as compared with a 1995 study, as reported in Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

The results show that doctors are now less likely "to believe that the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the difficulties or inconvenience," fewer had confidence that almost all women would be able to breastfeed, and they found more reasons to recommend against the practice.

In good news, the 2004 pediatricians were more likely "to recommend exclusive breastfeeding ... and follow supportive hospital policies."

One factor that helped with breastfeeding promotion was personal experience of breastfeeding on the part of the pediatrician. Apparently it's not enough just to be taught in medical school that breastfeeding's good for babies and mamas -- you have to see it in action to believe it.

Well, fine. But how are our future physicians going to see it in action if our current ones discourage mothers from doing it?

File this under grrr... I thought things were supposed to be getting better.

Photo courtesy of Sanja Gjenero on stock.xchng

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I won NaNoWriMo!

I just wanted to share that I have finished my first novel!

NaNoWriMo08I started my first in a string of uncompleted novels at age 10, after reading an inspiring young writer's handbook. (It was, in fact, The Young Writer's Handbook
along the side there. Look how you can now purchase it for a whole cent! In my heart, I know it's worth more than that.)

Twenty-two and a half years later, I have finished one to completion.

Take that, lack of ambition!

Now I just need to revise the snot out of it, then start sending it off to agents, and simultaneously start work on the next in the series and finish up my other uncompleted novel that's nearest to completion (not the one from when I was 10). All this while taking care of a 17-month-old and running our own business.

But it will work. See how I chose the NaNo winner badge that celebrates my Viking roots. We are tough. We loot and pillage. We prevail.

I am a writer. I will be a published novelist. I will never be embarrassed at school reunions again.

Friday, November 28, 2008

It's Christmas music time!

I love the day after Thanksgiving, because it's the day I can officially start listening to holiday songs.

Now, by December 26, I'll be sick of them all, but at this point I haven't heard them for almost a whole year!

Oprah Holiday Hits 2008Oprah's giving away some Christmas mp3s, if they're your style:

Have a Thrifty Holiday: Holiday Hits 2008

It's traditional favorites by Harry Connick Jr., Amy Grant, Aretha Franklin, Tony Bennett, Faith Hill, and some people I haven't heard of but presumably are famous if Oprah knows of them. The songs are up for only a couple days, so download 'em while you can, along with the cover and label PDFs.

Another great find I've discovered for Christmas music is the local library system. If yours is like mine, you can search online by subject and sort by audio CD, so it's easy to find a list of all holiday CDs and place holds on the ones that appeal to you.

Now, I'm a little late at telling you about this if you haven't thought of it before, because the most popular CDs are already going to be on hold through the end of the year. But, leave yourself on hold, and go ahead and get the CDs when they come to you in January or February. I know you won't want to listen to them then, but give them a sample and rip the songs you like and save them in a holiday folder on your iTunes or iPod or whatever you have that doesn't start with a little i.

Then they'll be all ready for next Christmas, and will surprise you with how fresh and new they sound when they start playing in your holiday shuffle.

If you have any PepsiStuff points from drinking too much diet cola (ahem...), Amazon has alerted me that they will expire at the end of the year. You can use just 5 points for each mp3 download, so use up any by getting your favorite songs. Maybe whatever's still on perpetual hold at the library!

Happy holiday listening!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

colorful cornI have been racking my brain to think of something to write about. I'm hiding from relatives, see, and this is a justifiable reason to do so.

Yes, it's almost 10 p.m. and we still haven't eaten Thanksgiving dinner. It has to do with my sister-in-law eating two meals today (which, even on such a feast day, smacks of gluttony and future tummyaches), and the upshot is that there's still a batch of people in the kitchen, and then there's me sitting out in the living room, pretending to be Very Busy.

Help me out, Internets, what can I write about?

I know -- I will reprise last year's post and make it an annual tradition.

What am I thankful for?

  • It seems obvious to say family, but just because it's obvious doesn't mean it's not true. I love you all, even if I am avoiding you.
  • Mikko is walking. He loves it, and we're getting a kick out of it, too. He's got at least a dozen signs, and I love knowing what he's thinking. He's becoming his own little person, and it's thrilling to watch.
  • I'm within 7,000 words of my NaNoWriMo finish, and I'm in the climactic, heart-stopping scene right now where the killer catches up with the heroine! I left in an exciting place specifically to motivate me to get back to it and finish up tonight.
  • Just in general, I'm glad I'm feeling like me. I'm writing, I'm taking ballet classes again. I'm not just a mother, not that that's a bad thing to be -- I'm myself again now, too. Sometimes when I'm stretching during ballet, lengthening my back and smelling the leather of my slippers with my nose to my toes, I just feel so centered, so present, so myself. I'm grateful for that hour and a half away every week.
  • Mrs. Pim the kitty is still a furry, well-cared-for little soul. Now that it's colder, she sits on our laps all the time again, demanding attention, as is her due.
  • This is a today one, but I harvested a gazillion tomatoes today. Yes, on Thanksgiving! I love the Pacific Northwest. The red ones all went into the freezer to make sauce when we're feeling winter-bound, and the mature green ones I'm saving out to make green tomato salsa, after I can get to the grocery store again for the rest of the ingredients (read: everything but the green tomatoes). It sounds delightful, so I'll have to let you know if I screw it up.
  • But, in good news, I got to cook tonight. I made the stuffed mushrooms. They're so easy to make that even a complete...well, even I can make them. But it went to feeling creative again. When we were first married, Sam and I traded off cooking more. I think I was trying to impress him with my wifeliness. Eventually, I felt secure enough to give up and let him at it, since he's so much better at the culinary arts. But now I think it's just laziness that I never take a turn. I forgot that it's fun.
  • As Sam answered during our dinnertime questioning (yes, we finally ate), Obama. And then Sam continued that he's glad it's been a no-drama year. As much as we sometimes miss our pre-parenting lives of being able to travel and do a lot of events and museums and such (we tried to fit those things in during Mikko's first year and exhausted ourselves), this year has been a good quiet. We're still in our little cottage by the sea, still working from home, feeling stable and content. 

A very happy Thanksgiving to you.

Colorful corn photo courtesy of George Bosela on stock.xchng

Monday, November 24, 2008

Idle parenting is very continuum

A friend sent me this link to a Telegraph UK article describing the practice of "Idle Parenting":

Idle Parenting Means Happy Children, by Tom Hodgkinson

It cracked me up while at the same time reassuring me (his manifesto includes lines like "We drink alcohol without guilt" and "We reject the idea that parenting requires hard work"), and it seemed very much in line with my Continuum Parenting ideals.

Hodgkinson describes the birth of his idle parenting epiphany with this Fight Club-like quote from DH Lawrence:

"The welcome discovery that a lazy parent is a good parent took root when I read the following passage from a DH Lawrence essay, Education of the People, published in 1918: 'How to begin to educate a child. First rule: leave him alone. Second rule: leave him alone. Third rule: leave him alone. That is the whole beginning.'"

The basic idea of Idle Parenting is to let children play and do what they want to do while the parents get on with their sedentary, boring, grown-up lives, which is exactly what I crave.

Maybe it's because we had our first child in our thirties rather than our twenties or teens, but I find myself worn out when I try to play all day. That might be why Hodgkinson's insistence that since children like being busy and parents like being lazy, "it makes sense for the children to do the work."

That's one reason we're trying to train Mikko to stuff DVDs in envelopes, so that one day he can carry on our family business while we read library books.

Jean Liedloff's The Continuum Concept casts a vision that, though less light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek than Hodgkinson's, mirrors his insistence that children don't need constant attention of the sort that Western parents think their children crave. Based on her observations of tribal societies, Liedloff recommends a childrearing practice in keeping with what humans have evolved to expect: first, constant physical contact during babyhood while the baby passively observes what the adults are doing, and then, when the baby becomes mobile, increasing journeys away from the safety of the mother, eventually coming to rest within the peer group of other children for most of the day.

Obviously, most of us reading blogs don't live in tribes anymore, so in most families it's unlikely that there are enough children in the household to create a varied peer group for a Western child. But I do agree with the general idea that there are some things adults want or need to do, and there are some things children want or need to do, and we can both just get on with it. If Mikko wants to join me in my adult activities, such as helping us cook or clean or wash dishes or wrap packages for our business, then he's welcome and invited, as he learns the ropes of being an adult. But if he wants to hare off and enjoy himself in some childish giddiness, that's also perfectly acceptable, and I shouldn't have to feel guilty that I don't always join him in that. I can, if I want to, but he can enjoy his time as a child without my interference.

Here's another quote from Hodgkinson's article:

"Paradoxically, the idle parent is a responsible parent because at the heart of idle parenting is a respect for the child, a trust in another human being."

Children don't need to be raised in some heavy-handed fashion. They grow. They grow the way our cherry tomato plant grew this summer. It was a gift, so we paid no money for it. We planted it, and it took off. We provided some soil and some water on dry days, and God and the plant's inherent developmental arc did the rest. I know plant-to-parenting metaphors have been done to death, but seriously, people -- kids will grow all on their own, too. You provide the basics of nourishment, physical and emotional, the supplies for growth. But don't fool yourself into thinking you're creating a human being. That work's being done next to you, ahead of you, despite you, but not by you.

A final quote, but then go read the whole article if you haven't already, and also visit his site, The Idler.

"My idea of childcare is a large field. At one side is a marquee serving local ales. This is where the parents gather. On the other side, somewhere in the distance, the children play. I don't bother them and they don't bother me. I give them as much freedom as possible."

I'm living my life, writing my novel, being unambitious and thrifty and content, not impressing anyone at high school reunions or mommy gatherings, watching my kid grow and celebrating it with him. I don't trick myself into thinking I have more power than I do. I just let him run around me in a blur, wearing me out with his enthusiasm and energy, and refuse to feel guilty for sitting on the sidelines, watching him raise himself.

Hilarious photo by Andrew Crowley, from the article referenced

Monday, November 17, 2008

Essential breastfeeding product: Save your shirt & your dignity!

Welcome to the November Carnival of Breastfeeding: Product Reviews

This month we're bringing you posts on the topic of nursing products. Be sure to check out the links at the end for other great shopping and gift ideas.


I thought about what products I use in breastfeeding, and it hasn't been much. For one, you need a nice pair of breasts. Just a joke -- one will do.

But seriously, as far as things you can buy, the few things I've gotten I've mostly written about before: supportive and well-fitting nursing bras, helpful clothing, a nursing necklace for twiddling, and a simple pump (a nice manual like an Avent Isis works if pumping is only occasional). For the early days, I also used a little lanolin -- generic worked fine, and now I use the leftover to lanolize my wool diaper covers -- and pillows to bolster my newborn up to the right height (such as a Boppy, My Brest Friend, or, you know, a bed pillow or two!).

So, the only other thing my mind went to, as far as breastfeeding products I still use at 17 months, nursing pads.

They were absolutely necessary in the first months, when otherwise my shirts ended up soaked within minutes, but I still wear them now, and I can tell that they continue to prevent the odd embarrassing leak. There's nothing like sporting two big wet circles like targets painting your chest!

I tried out disposable nursing pads first, but they were crinkly, wrinkly, and obvious even through my bra and shirt. I didn't usually leak through them, but they often felt uncomfortably soaked before I had a chance to change them. Plus, they were difficult to readjust when I was nursing in public, and I would often find one flapping its way out as I was trying to fasten things up.

I thought I'd look for something better. I saw that the major brands had reusable cloth pads available, but I was already looking on eBay for diaper supplies, and I discovered that several sew-from-home moms create their own versions of cloth nursing pads, from wool, cotton jersey, flannel, fleece, or some combination.

I tried a few kinds, and the best for me are made from what seems like one layer of thick flannel and one layer of soft microfleece, serged together at the edges and contoured in two places so that it has a nice curved shape to it. I can put either side next to my skin, and they've been comfortable, discreet, and leak-proofing. Unfortunately, I checked and the person selling them hasn't had any listed in awhile, though other sellers have similar and affordable kinds available.

Another option is to make your own, adapting the pattern and materials to suit your needs. I liked these instructions from Exploring Womanhood:

Craft Projects -- Cloth Nursing Pads

It looks simple enough but thorough, and it allows you to make flat or contoured pads. If you want to contour even further, to give more of a rounded than a pointed top, just repeat the contouring instructions on the opposite side of the circle.

The suggested materials are cotton, terry, or flannel, which provide absorbency. You might try adding or substituting a wicking material as well -- something that's popular in cloth diapering or elimination communication would work, such as microfleece or wool. That will help keep the moisture from making its way onto your clothing or keeping the wetness against your skin.

You can start off with any fabrics you have at home. For ultimate discretion, follow the article's instructions about matching your skin tone. But if you have an opaque bra, you can use even kicky patterns without fear, so try cutting up old receiving blankets, diapers, or towels.

You can find other patterns online, and some will have you start out with a larger diameter circle (5" or 6"), acknowledging that the sewing will cut in on the diameter a little. You can see what works best for your shape and size. Some suggest that the pads should fill the cup of your bra, so there are no telltale lines around the edges. I've found that mine are thin and molded enough that it isn't a problem. Breastfeeding in public, too, is easier if the end result is flexible and on the thin side, so that the pad just sort of stays tucked and folded into your bra's cup until it's time to pull it up to close.

Caring for the pads is easy-peasy. I don't have a washer, so I just wash mine in the sink with my bras, with Eucalan or Woolite or, if I'm feeling plebeian, dish soap. You might be able to throw yours in the washer and dryer, depending on your fabric choices. Wool will need special care.

Feel free to experiment, and let me know how your pads turn out.

Or be lazy like I was, and buy some from a work-at-home mama, which is not a bad idea, either!


Please read our other carnival participants:

Breastfeeding Mums reviews The Food of Love, a witty book about breastfeeding
Babyfingers raves about her Bravado nursing tank
Half Pint Pixie finds gorgeous nursing bras for smaller-breasted mamas
The Motherwear Blog checks out breastfeeding and pumping CDs
Mama Knows Breast suggests breastfeeding and pregnancy pillows
Blacktating gives tips on products to boost milk supply
Mama's Magic blogs about basics and bling
Breastfeeding 1-2-3 finds comfort with the Medela Sleep Nursing Bra
LaylaBethMunk @ offers a selection of favorites

DIY photo from the Exploring Womanhood project

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Salma is breastfeeding "like an alcoholic"

Oh, why not?

I'm feeling all worn out by this NaNoWriMo dealio, so all my writing energy (and, incidentally, all my cleaning energy, though that's easily dissipated) is being poured into this novel.

Therefore, I will once again bring to your attention the latest in celebrity breastfeeding news.

Salma HayekSam was reading The Huffington Post and happened across Salma Hayek's admission (as referenced from the UK Times) that she's still feeding her 14-month-old.

"'I'm like an alcoholic,' she shrugs. 'It's like, I don't care if I cry, I don't care if I'm fat, I'm just gonna do it for one more week, one more month, and then, when I see how much good it is doing her, I can't stop. Eet's a very powerful thing you know.'"

(NB: I'm not the one transliterating her accent.)

All right, fun things from the article. First of all, the opening sentence from the Times is, "It’s hard not to notice Salma Hayek’s bosoms." Looking at pictures of her in all her mammary glory, I can confidently assume that we have the same ginormous cup size. Granted, I don't have the tiny rest of the body, but as Salma herself says, it's not always easy for nursing mothers to lose weight. Salma is admittedly drinking beer to increase her milk production, so that's part of her issues, but from the article it sounds like both of us have the same underlying reason for why it's hard to slim down while breastfeeding -- we're so dang hungry all the time.

"'And by the way, the myth that says you lose all this weight when you breast-feed? That is sooo not true. Look,' she protests, grabbing her tummy and then reaching for the plate of biscuits the waiter has set down on the table, 'it’s like, "Please, everyone, can you stop telling me I look really

I'm sorry to hear that she's in pain while breastfeeding and hope she can get that worked out (although at 14 months, things are usually well into a routine), but I'm glad she's open and enthusiastic about being a mother and is taking such good care of her daughter.

NaNoWriMo 08I'm hoping this post makes any sense, because I've needed to stay up until 7:30 every morning for the past week and a half to write my word count for NaNoWriMo. Mikko decided to make my life more interesting this month by combining my ambitions with a sleep strike of his own. He's been refusing to go down to bed until 3 in the morning, then getting up after six or seven hours of sleep, and his naps have dwindled, too. I'm hoping it's a temporary aberration as he excitedly exercises his newest skill: walking. Yes, we have a full-fledged Frankentoddler on our hands, lurching around the house on flat feet all day long.

It's impossible to type a novel when he's awake, so I have to suck it up and just use his sleep time to catch up on work rather than sleep. I guess if November is Novel Writing Month, then December can be Sleep Month. Cooperate, Mikko? Please?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sleeping like a baby

Sleeping ToddlerI have come to a revelation in the difference between adults and toddlers in terms of falling asleep.

To illustrate, picture going to bed. What do you do? First off, of course, there's all the rigamarole of brushing your teeth and getting ready, but I mean the very basics, after you've turned off the light. You climb into the bed, lie down, pull up the covers, and ...

.. you close your eyes!

Yes, that's the difference. Toddlers skip this crucial step. And that's why it takes my 17-month-old so dang long to fall asleep each night!

Is it against any sort of legal or ethical codes to Super Glue little eyelids?

Yeah, thought so. Sigh. Maybe just Elmer's?

Now imagine how not to fall asleep, supposing some giant had cruelly placed you into a bedroom and snuggled you close in the bed, trying to convince you to give in and lower your defenses with sinister back rubs and a warm drink. You might keep your eyes strained toward any movement of interest, refuse to lie down in case your body took that as a sign to relax, squirm and kick the wall to keep the adrenaline pumping, screech and sing to keep your mind active, and when the giant was distracted (say, while typing a blog post), you might attempt a stealthy crawl for freedom.

There's Mikko right now, fighting hard at 1:23 a.m.

Toddlers act like sleep is a surrender, a capitulation, rather than a goal to be sought.

Silly toddlers. Don't they know how much they'll miss sleep when they're our age?

Image courtesy of Dez Pain on

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Novel beginnings, 1 & 2

Here's a cool story to illustrate my last post. Read at least the last few paragraphs:

Dancing in the Streets << Yay! Pigeons

This brought tears to my eyes.

NaNoWriMoThe blog above also references another item I'd love to bring to your attention: November is NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month!

The crazy goal is to write 50,000 words of continuous fiction in 30 days! Word count and speed count; quality doesn't. So, if you're wanting to join me, get to it!

I'll blog more about it at my writing site,

Onward and upward!

Picture the change

I am giddy with joy that we elected Barack Obama as our next president. I know about half the country isn't thrilled, including many of my dear friends and family members, so I've been trying to be gracious in my glee.

I think, I hope, though, that we can all agree that this is a historic and incredible step for America. A nation built by slaves, a country where within a decade of the time I was born there were public places that made it illegal for black people and white people to sit near each other. This illustration from Patrick Moberg really says a thousand words:

Patrick Moberg-Nov. 4, 2008


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Another reason to hate infant car seats

First -- I want to celebrate. I realized I am officially over 100 posts. Hooray!

Ok, this might just be me. But I hate those infant bucket car seat things. I see people carrying their babies around in those stupid plastic tubs everywhere, jiggling the plastic when their babies cry in the store, with it propped on top of the grocery cart, and I want to scream: "Why is your baby so hideously repulsive to you that you can't stand to touch that sweet baby skin?"

But, yes, ok, that might just be me. If I'm horribly offending the 99.9% of American parents who think the plastic handle carrier things are the bomb, feel satisfied that you're part of the majority.

Also, I want to stipulate that I have no problem with infant car seats used in a car. Hooray for you for keeping your child safely buckled in. Now, when you stop the car, leave the seat attached to its base and move along, baby in arms.

We avoided an infant car seat altogether by going straight to a rear-facing convertible. I had scattered moments of panic just before labor that this little baby might be born too small for the height and weight minimums on the Roundabout and that Sam would have to rush out and buy an infant seat at Target before we could travel anywhere. Our midwife, after all, had solemnly predicted that this baby would be below average size, somewhere around 7 pounds, 4 ounces.

When Mikko weighed in at just under 12 pounds at birth, I remembered my fears about not filling out the convertible enough. Ha ha ha!

Crisis averted. Thanks, Chubster!

Anyhoo...with our thoughts of buying a Swedish seat that potentially could be used with a potential second child (I don't like to tempt fate's laughing in my face by making concrete plans), we would need an infant seat for #2. (The Roundabout will have expired, and the Swedish seat's too big for a newborn.) I would have to swallow my pride and that bit of throw up in the back of my throat and (gulp) buy a bucket. With one of those stupid handles. So I can carry my baby everywhere encased in plastic, with the little soft baby skull being nicely flattened out, the better to fit the seat's contours.

Whenever I tell people about my distaste for infant car seats, the people who disagree with me -- who are, indeed, the far-reaching majority of other parents in my culture -- tell me about the one salient feature of baby car seats that they cannot live without.

When the baby falls asleep in the car, they tell me, you can just pop the carseat out and carry it into the house, without waking said infant.

And, every once in awhile, I envied that ability. I have alternately woken up a sleeping Mikko (so sad to do) or, more often, spent hours in the parked car, turning on the heat or rolling down windows to keep him comfortable, reading books by flashlight or using my laptop until the battery ran out, waiting for my boy to wake up from another drive-induced nap.

But then I read this story: Study: Infants Sleeping in Car Seats Could Be At Risk. It points out that the head flexion in car seats that are outside the car can restrict breathing in young infants. I believe that this is the study referenced in the article. A Google Scholar search turned up numerous other articles dealing with head injuries due to falls and overturning of the plastic carriers, plagiocephaly from spending too long in the seats, and many recommendations that these infant seats be limited to their proper use inside of cars only. Apparently, bringing them in not only exposes children to the dangers of falling out of them, but it also places them at more awkwardly upright angles that can threaten their airways. Here's a horribly sad story of a baby who succumbed to the threat.

And this is all not even accounting for the strain on parents' shoulders and backs carrying the heavy monstrosities around, nor for the strain on the relationship between parent and baby. I wasn't joking when I said that the only advantage I'm ever told when I protest the bucket's ubiquity is that you can carry a sleeping baby in from the car. But, in my real-world observations, I've seen mostly awake babies carried around and set on the floor or the church pew or a table -- all those missed opportunities to snuggle close. Although, really, it would be fine to hold a sleeping child as well.

I'm content now that my seat has always had to stay in the car, sleeping baby or no. And if I do have to buy one of those *�@ buckets, I'll leave it strapped in -- the side benefit will be that no one will be able to see that I've given in and started using one.

Friday, October 24, 2008

An open letter to car safety fans & manufacturers

I have a big baby. He is not of average weight, I agree.

But I want him to be just as safe as all those average babies out there can be.

Unfortunately, he's outgrown the limits of his car seat for rear facing — in fact, he outgrew them at 9 months, a full three months before even the most liberal recommendations for when to turn a baby forward facing, which in the US are 1 year old and 20 pounds. Twenty pounds he reached by 9 weeks, so that was out! At 16 months now, he's outgrown both the height and weight limits of all the rear-facing seats available in the US market.

I believe in the benefits of extended rear facing. Studies, crash statistics, and a commonsense understanding of physics show that it's much safer for a passenger to be secured in a rear-facing seat in almost any collision. Watch the clip below and see the forces at work on the baby's neck and spine:

Children between the ages of 1 and 2 are five times more likely to be injured forward facing than rear, according to Dr. Marilyn Bull at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis (where my uncle works -- here's a shout out to him!).

Her study recommends rear facing to the limits of the child seat, hopefully till at least 2 years old. The child's spine takes many years to develop and ossify into the adult configuration, and the biggest danger for babies in forward-facing seats is (gulp) internal decapitation due to a weak spinal system. This has nothing to do with neck strength and is all part of the gradual process of spinal bone growth; babies' relatively big heads for their bodies unfortunately exacerbate the dangers of having weak spines when strong forces act upon them -- say, the forces of a 30 mph collision.

How do I know so much about this issue? Because I care about parenting, and I learn about what I'm involved in. All this learning, however, has left me aggravated and apprehensive, because my baby can no longer safely sit rear facing using US-approved seats.

Most parents I know would not understand why I consider this a big deal. If you're one of them, I hope you'll take some time to consider the links above and realize that turning your child forward facing is not a milestone to look forward to but a demotion in safety. Cars are very dangerous, and they're especially dangerous for the vulnerable.

But the people I really want to talk to are those who are in complete agreement with me, who have sent out links to the very sites I've referenced in this article and showed their relatives and friends the YouTube clips of crash tests. I also want to talk to child safety restraint manufacturers -- Britax (thank you for the photos of adorable Swedish kids, btw), SafeGuard, Sunshine Kids, etc. -- you know who you are. We love your products, and we appreciate that you make high-quality and innovative seats. We know that some of you make seats that rear face up to much higher limits in other countries and have safety features that US seats lack. I'm not even asking that we be as progressive and intelligent as Sweden, where children rear face for approximately the first four years, and rear-facing weight limits are 55 pounds, and where they have incredibly low amounts of child injuries and fatalities from car accidents. (Well, that would be nice, but first things first. Compare the stats to take a gander at the shocking differences: nine children properly restrained died in car accidents in Sweden from 1992-June 1997, whereas about four children a day die in the United States due to car crashes. Obviously, that's not an apples-to-apples comparison, but believe me when I say we would do well to emulate the Swedes on car safety.)

Here are the only little things I want from you.

Car seat makers, please consider increasing the rear-facing height and weight limits on your child seats. I know there's not a market for them yet in this country. I understand that market forces affect how much you can do. But even a few pounds and a couple inches might mean the difference between my baby (I know, I know, it's all about me!) turning around now at 16 months when his spine is still severely undeveloped, and being able to stay more safely rear facing for up to another year or more. Make seats so that no mama ever has to even worry that her baby won't make it to 2 years old before hitting the rear-facing limit.

Car safety advocates, please continue to raise your voices so that the above can happen. Let the manufacturers know that you would be willing to keep your precious cargo facing the rear longer if US seats allowed it to happen. Write letters to the AAP and your political representatives urging them to consider passing more conservative guidelines for when a baby can be turned around to face the front. And let your neighbors, colleagues, parenting groups, and friends know about the benefits of extended rear facing. Oh, you're probably already doing that.

As for me, I'm faced with the dilemma: turn Mikko around now, top tether his seat (we had an anchor retrofitted in our 1997 car for free at a dealership), and hope for the best. Or import a pricey and illegal Swedish seat through the services of this helpful gentleman and hope the fuzz don't catch us.

Cheese it, Mikko! At least he'd be safer as we made our getaway.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Jamie Lynn Spears breastfeeding brouhaha

Oh, why not? Another celebrity breastfeeding moment...

The father of the newest ill-fated Spears baby took pictures to a Wal-Mart to develop, and one showed baby Maddie being breastfed. Someone at the store presumably stole the pics and is now trying to peddle them, which would end up being child pornography:

"Because Jamie Lynn is a minor, selling the pics -- or buying them -- could constitute a violation of federal laws prohibiting child pornography. Peddling pictures of a minor's breast -- even if not taken for sexual purposes -- could land the seller and the buyer in federal prison if they are marketed across state lines for the purpose of being lurid."

I don't really care about all that. Whatever.

Jamie Lynn OKJust two comments:

First, yea that Maddie is being breastfed! She has at least something going for her.

Second, this stance from gave me pause:

"Spears' baby daddy Casey Aldridge took his digital camera chip into the superstore to get the pictures developed of Jamie Lynn breast-feeding their daughter Maddie, which is a totally normal thing to want pictures of, in order to show your daughter's future boyfriends when they come by the house. [...] Who wants pictures of leaky boobs?"

Note the disbelief that breastfeeding pictures would be acceptable or desirable. But I will tell you, from my site analytics, that my posts on breastfeeding photos get more than their share of hits due to keywords people are typing into Google.

Granted that these searchers might mostly be fetishists, as I mentioned before, I think that taking pictures of breastfeeding is as natural as breastfeeding itself. Well, not quite that natural, but I mean -- if it's something you're doing with your baby twelve times a day, and you're taking pictures of said baby all day long, why wouldn't you want to record such an integral part of your experience together?

That said, I will agree with I' for suggesting that this incredibly wealthy family invest in a photo printer and avoid the big-box photo counters in the future, particularly when dropping off naked pictures of a minor. Even though I have no problems personally taking or having taken photos that showcase my breastfeeding, and I even have some tasteful ones posted on my personal site for family to view, I have never had those photos developed by other hands or let the files out of my keeping. Why tempt potential trouble?

OK, I lied -- third point: Why is Jamie Lynn's hair prematurely gray? Ha ha.

All right, I'll try to knock it off with the celeb watching. I wasn't looking for it, honest -- I'm trying to remember how I found it in the first place. Recent actual searches in my browser history: "Seventh-Day Adventists modesty," "Dominic Monaghan," "Inspector Frost," "Der Mond ist aufgegangen lyrics" -- where could I have clicked from?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Angelina Jolie nursing in public

Angelina WI'm trying not to be a worshiper in the celebrity cult, but it's fun to see famous people showing some NIP. Angelina Jolie posed for pictures her husband (that would be Brad Pitt) was taking, and one of her nursing a twin is going to be on the cover of W magazine. It's really a sweet picture.

I'll let La Leche League sum up how I feel about this:

"La Leche League International, the world's oldest breast-feeding support organization, applauds Jolie's apparent decision to be photographed nursing.

"'Breast-feeding in public reveals a whole lot less than what has been revealed on the red carpet. ... I think we do need more role models like Angelina Jolie willing to be photographed and say, "Hey look, it can be done, it oughta be done,"' said La Leche spokeswoman Jane Crouse."

I love it when people who have a lot of attention on them use that to further a good cause. Mama Angelina makes breastfeeding look completely normal, doesn't she? Not to mention serene, and not a little glamorous.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Update on postpartum visits from Aunt Flo

I know everyone wants to keep up to date with my menstrual cycle, particularly after my last post on The Great Sports Bra Quest of Aught-Eight.

After my frighteningly late period the cycle before last, I then turned in an early month -- instead of my 29-30-day average, I managed only 16. I thought I was having ovulation spotting for the first time in my life -- but then it just kept going for a week, full on. Huh.

So I'm revising what I said when my cycles returned at seven months postpartum. I think all the breastfeeding has been keeping me infertile. My guess is that I've been bleeding but not ovulating, or maybe ovulating but only erratically. Or maybe ovulating but not producing the hormones that would facilitate or sustain a pregnancy.

Either that, or I'm in perimenopause and/or my fertility is now seriously whacked.

So we'll go with the lactation-induced infertility theory.

I found great information about gradually returning fertility from Kathy Dettwyler's site:

"Fertility is not an 'either/or' sort of phenomenon. Post-partum, a woman does not [ovulate] for a while, even if she isn't breastfeeding. If she is breastfeeding frequently enough to keep her prolactin levels above her individual critical threshhold for fertility (and women vary in this threshhold) then her fertility is suppressed.

"The greatest level of suppression is not ovulating, but as your prolactin levels go up, your fertility will gradually return. First you will ovulate, but not have the proper hormone levels for fertilization; then you will ovulate and fertilization may occur, but you still may not have the proper hormone levels for implantation; finally, you may ovulate, be fertilized, and implant, but not have the proper hormone levels for continuing the pregnancy, so you have a very early miscarriage, probably along the lines of minutes or hours after implantation, so you wouldn't know you had been pregnant."

Here's another resource on the subject.

Fortunately, I don't need no stinkin' fertility, so I'll just wait and see what new crazy thing happens this next cycle. I'm on day 28...

Friday, October 3, 2008

Sports bras for nursing women

That's my title. And my post is...where are they?

By trying on a gazillion nursing bras at a boutique shop, I finally determined my real size right now. For those of you playing along at home, it's 36I. Yes, I as in I can't believe how big my boobs are.

My old sports bras from days of yore (as in, pre-breastfeeding) are not cutting it. Or, that is to say, they cut too deeply. I'm not trying to be difficult -- I'm not looking for a sports bra with nursing flaps or anything so convenient. I just want one that's highly supportive without mashing me flat as a pancake (as if such a thing were possible at my chest size).

I thought I'd put it out there on the internet in case anyone has a wonderful suggestion. I've been ordering from, and for everyday wear I have a few Anitas that I lurve.

To wit, this one and this one.

I wrote before about how I was making do with Target underwire nursing bras (in a 40DD) -- they were pretty, supportive, and mostly sorta fit -- but that was before Target discontinued them, at least around where I live, and I checked several Targets in hope. (Oh, look, I could get them online, though not in my favorite pink -- oh, well.) When my old faithfuls started to fall apart (noticeable because my girls started to droop), I checked into Anita, which I'd heard good things about. I shuddered at the price tags, but I didn't see much of an option any other way, and at least I've been mightily pleased with my new, über-expensive boulder holders.

Now, Anita, like pretty much all nursing-bra manufacturers, does not make underwire styles in 36I. No, for the biggest breasts, they hope that soft cup will suffice. Um...hello? So I'm making do with a 36H. I'm a little compressed, but it's workable. Do I wish they made a bra that's supportive in my actual size? Yes. But I will manage. Isn't it something like 80% of women who are wearing the wrong size, anyway? I'm just sticking with the ranks.

So, on to sports bradom...

I was starting ballet classes again, abandoned midway through pregnancy when my hips decided they'd had enough of pretty much everything, and that pliés were right out, and I tried on my old sports bras. Ow! And nursing Mikko before and after was a contortionist act that involved taking the whole strap down my arm and wrenching my breast out of its torture cell.

(My class is adult beginner ballet, before anyone wondered about the incongruity between ballet dancer and big bra size. Most actual ballerinas probably don't wear bras at all, but that's really not an option pour moi.)

I returned to and read the reviews of the largest-size sports bras. There aren't many available, so it didn't take long.

There is, in fact, only one available in my actual size, a Goddess Comfort Zone 2000 (wow to the name), but I was put off by the front closure that one reviewer said popped open during softball practice. Eep! She recommended not wearing it for any sport in which you're leaping about, which rules out ballet.

So, I thought I'd do what I'd done for my everyday wear and make do with a smaller size, compensating decreased cup size with increased band width. But 36H gave me just two styles, and the additional style, a LaBreeza, didn't have rave reviews. Everyone was unhappy with the support, and that was the whole reason I needed a sports bra -- to keep my chest from hitting me in the chin during changements and jetés.

Then on to 38G, which was my mistake. I decided on another Goddess, the 5056 (no inspiring name this time), and waited patiently for it to ship out of backorder. When it finally arrived, it turned out it wouldn't even fasten in the back. I should have gone at least 40G. But it didn't matter, because I hated the style. I swear, it went up to my neck. My leotard, while tastefully cut, would show half my bra if I wore that.

Back went my Goddess, and now I have a credit at biggerbras but no confidence that I'll ever find a good sports bra: supportive without being constrictive, and at least mildly attractive.

So, that's my sports-bra opera. Can you hear me singing my sad aria about bouncing boobs and mangled mammaries?

For now I'm making do with my super-tight sports bras and assuming I'll stretch them out with use.

But any better ideas would be more than welcome. As would any petitioning of nursing-bra manufacturers to take pity on women with large chest sizes before breastfeeding and thereby huuuge chest sizes after. More options, please!